DILLON " With just four weeks left in the session of the Colorado General Assembly, State Representative Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, promised her constituents, "We're doing great work " and the pace is crazy," as she and House Speaker Andrew Romanoff met with Summit County locals for an informal town hall meeting at Pug Ryan's Steakhouse in Dillon on Saturday.
"Education, healthcare and the economy " that's the heart of our agenda," said Romanoff, who has been accompanying Scanlan on a "midterm progress report" tour throughout Scanlan's District 56, which includes Summit, Lake and Eagle counties.
Nevertheless, those present seemed to be more interested in an update on the status of the bill proposed by Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, which would implement a toll of up to $5 each way along the I-70 corridor between Floyd Hill and the Eisenhower Tunnel.
"The bill was quite arrogant in the way it presented to me, and no one was consulted from any of our district," Scanlan said. "There has been no analysis done on the potential economic or environmental impacts. It was rushed through the Senate with no thought."
Scanlan added that Summit County is supposed to be exempt from the toll charge, and that 15 other counties have also asked to be exempt from it.
I-70 Coalition director Dr. Florine Raitano, who was also among the 20 or so people present, gave a brief outline as to why the Coalition does not support the bill.
"Highway improvements have to happen, and transit (implementation) also has to happen," she said. "But transit should not preclude us from doing highway, and highway should not preclude us from doing transit. This bill will shut the door on doing both."
Romanoff suggested that, if the bill is defeated, alternative sources need to be found for the funding.
"We don't mint money at the Capitol," he said, adding that statistics indicate that CDOT funding is running up to $2 billion a year behind schedule. Romanoff put forth ideas such as gas, severance and sales taxes, as well as an idea to charge rental car users an extra $5 " a proposal which didn't gain much support from those present, due to the impact on local tourism.
During the remainder of the meeting, Scanlan discussed her sponsorship of the education bill CAP4K, which would align educational requirements to meet the needs of the workforce, and amend college admission so students could earn qualifying credit by proficiency rather than class attendance.
Scanlan and Romanoff also discussed their support of a bill leveraging $1 billion to repair Colorado's most structurally-dangerous schools. Scanlan said during a recent tour of several southeastern Colorado school districts, she and Romanoff were confronted with "abominable" conditions, including leaking roofs and rotting floorboards.
"I feel passionate about this bill because this state is capable of doing so much better," Romanoff added.
Scanlan also outlined other current legislation which she is sponsoring, including a school bus signals safety bill, a five-year, $5 million extension of the forest restoration pilot program bill introduced by Senator Dan Gibbs, a bill which would facilitate small businesses in providing health insurance, and a bill which would lower DUI blood alcohol levels to the automobile driving limit for boaters, in an effort to cut down on boating fatalities.
"I call this the 'What do you do with the drunken sailor' bill?'" Scanlan joked.
Before leaving for the next stop on the tour, Steamboat Springs, Scanlan promised that, after the legislature adjourns in May, she would be back in Summit County for an end-of-session update.